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Carlos Caldera sails in for a breakaway layup during the during the second quarter Monday at Bulldog Pit. (Brienne Green - Daily Press)

Carlos Caldera sails in for a breakaway layup during the during the second quarter Monday at Bulldog Pit. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

The Bulldog basketball team got back on the plus side and logged another key win over a Class 5A opponent Monday at Bulldog Pit, besting the Hilltoppers of Los Alamos 56-46.

For the biggest part of the contest, the ‘Dogs put all elements of their game together, taking quality shots on offense and using aggressive defense to force a bevy of missed shots by the ‘Toppers.

The squads got off to a slow start from the field, with Los Alamos breaking the seal at the 6:24 mark of the first quarter, but Justin Houghtaling put Artesia on the board a few seconds later, then followed with a second bucket to make it a tie game midway through.

Back-to-back layups by Carlos Carrasco and Carlos Caldera put the Bulldogs in front, and a Houghtaling and-one followed by a Caldera trey with just under two minutes to go in the first helped keep them there heading into the second, 15-8.

Houghtaling logged his ninth point on a coast-to-coast layup off the steal to open the quarter, but a 7-2 run by the Hilltoppers pulled them back within four, 19-15, with five minutes to go in the half.

Artesia responded with a Caldera layup and a free throw apiece by the senior and Houghtaling, but another 8-2 burst by Los Alamos made it a two-point game, 25-23, with just under a minute left.

Houghtaling hit a three at the 13-second mark to give Artesia a five-point cushion, 28-23, at the break.

It was the ‘Dogs’ turn to rattle off a few runs in the third, as consecutive baskets by Caldera were followed by a Joe Willingham jumper and two from the stripe by Tim Morrison to make it 36-25, and a 7-0 rally that included buckets by Morrison and Houghtaling and a pair from the line by Taylor Null helped give Artesia its biggest lead of the night going into the fourth, 43-31.

Shots by Willingham and Caldera and an Ethan Duff trey maintained that margin through the four-minute mark. The ‘Toppers were able to chip away, coming within six with 2:15 to go, but Caldera would go 6-8 from the line in the final seconds to hold Los Alamos at bay through the horn, 56-46.

Caldera led all scorers on the contest with 21 points, followed by Houghtaling with 17. Adam Paulson posted 12 for Los Alamos and Antonio Trujillo and Jack Stewart 10 each.

The ‘Dogs had a solid day from the field, shooting 46 percent, and continued their improvement at the line, going 15-24. Los Alamos was near-perfect from the stripe, 9-10, but shot just 26 percent from the field.

The Bulldogs (8-7) will now prepare to join the Lady Bulldogs in a trip to Carlsbad Friday for Round Two of the Eddy County War series.